The Travel Industry Will Survive COVID-19, but with Big Changes – Fast Company

Execs at Hyatt, Airbnb, Kayak, and more predict what the travel industry must do to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

For Fast Company’s Shape of Tomorrow series, we’re asking business leaders to share their inside perspective on how the COVID-19 era is transforming their industries. Here’s what’s been lost—and what could be gained—in the new world order.

Mark Hoplamazian is the CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which operates more than 900 hotels and resorts across the world

We’re now at a point where virtually all of our hotels in China are reopened. And we’ve seen steady increases in demand. Before this recent outbreak in Beijing, more than 50% of our hotels in China were running at 50% or better occupancies. That confidence comes from the extensive contact tracing environment that they’ve got there.

Bookings [elsewhere] are starting to recover, the United States first and then Europe. Right now, it is leisure travel. Business travel will take some time to return. I’ve talked with a lot of CEOs, especially those of our largest customers, and they are looking at ways in which they can create a more hybrid [work] experience for their colleagues. Right now, they’re focused on remote working. But I think it’s really early for people to be making declarations about what life will be like, post-COVID and two years from now.

We’re creating hybrid weddings, where you can do a streamed version and distribute guests across the property, so you have appropriate distancing.”

Mark Hoplamazian, Hyatt Hotels

It’s clear that the lower-priced chains—the economy, budget, and midscale hotels—are doing better. Some of that is locational: A lot of those hotels are at airports, around airports, and on the interstates, so that means that they’re accommodating people who are moving around. But over the next six- to 12-month period, you’re going to see a bit of a barbell recovery, where lower-tier, lower-price hotels will be doing well, and then you will have luxury hotels doing well once air travel starts to free up a little bit. The hotels that will [take] the longest to recover are our large group meetings hotels, our convention hotels. . . .  There’s definitely going to be a short-term bias toward [hotel] brands [over rent-from-owner experiences]. Just looking at the guest experience, the question is: How do you implement cleaning regimens and safety protocols consistently across a diverse selection of offerings? With a marketplace platform [like Airbnb], I just don’t understand how the consistency and assuredness comes through. The execution piece is not clear to me.

Some of the solutions that we’ve discovered are going to work well for our business [long-term]. We’re creating hybrid weddings, where you can do a streamed version and distribute guests across the property, so you have appropriate distancing. That’s something that we can continue to enable, so that people with relatives who can’t travel in the future or who are unable to come from very long distances can still participate. We’ve created unique solutions for dining—a sort of delivered buffet kind of experience. You can come in and select what you want, and then it’s plated for you and brought to your table, as opposed to you self-serving. Or you create a mobile buffet, where you put selections into a cart that you can then wheel around to different tables, like Dim Sum. That level of experimentation is one of the wonderful things that have come out of [the pandemic].

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